Kyle Dubas is taking the high road.
The former Maple Leafs general manager – fired last week to end a stunning five-day stretch in the wake of Toronto’s second-round playoff exit – released a statement Tuesday on Twitter, but didn’t get into specifics regarding his dismissal.
Dubas, who began his rebuttal with an “onward” caption, was abruptly handed his walking papers Friday to cap a tumultuous period that began with a bizarre end-of-season news conference where the 37-year-old executive questioned if he wanted to continue in the role.
Leafs president Brendan Shanahan outlined in great deal the process that led to him axing Dubas during a Friday afternoon news conference, hours after Toronto announced it was “parting ways” with the GM.
Shanahan said at the time he advised Dubas, whose contract was set to expire June 30, not to speak with reporters following the Leafs’ five-game loss to the Florida Panthers without clarity on the future.
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Dubas said during that May 15 news conference the 2022-23 season was difficult on his young family and that he needed time to assess his path.
Shanahan, who had initially wanted to keep Dubas on board, said five days later at his media availability that he started to feel differently as the week progressed.
Shanahan said Dubas sent him an e-mail Thursday night indicating he did indeed want to continue as GM, but that came after the team – again, according to its president – received increased contract demands.
By that time, Shanahan said he’d made up his mind the Original Six franchise needed a change.
“In the days that I felt I needed to assess and evaluate my own view to the future, both with respect to the necessary direction of the club and ensuring that I had the full support of my family for what I knew would be required in the off-season and years to follow, the organization, as is their right to do, decided to go in a different direction,” Dubas said in his statement on social media.
Hired as an assistant GM in 2014 at age 28 before being elevated to the top job in 2018 after Shanahan pushed mentor and Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello aside, Dubas referenced his ups and downs in Toronto in Tuesday’s statement.
“It was an honour to be able to work in such an inspiring place, with dedicated, loyal people and an extremely passionate fan base,” he wrote. “The impact of that and the relationships with all of the people at (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment), from the board of directors through to the ushers at Scotiabank Arena, will forever hold a dear place in our hearts.”
Toronto had unprecedented regular-season success under Dubas, but was unable to find traction in the playoffs during his five years in charge until this spring when the Leafs won a series for the first time in nearly two decades before meekly bowing out to Florida.
Dubas also thanked coaches, players and staff on Twitter, but didn’t do the same for the Leafs – or mention Shanahan by name.
“Thank you for your passion and commitment at every step of the journey together,” Dubas said to his colleagues and players. “It was a tremendous pleasure to work alongside you each day.
“We will roll from here.”
The departure of Dubas leaves a boatload of questions in Toronto heading into what could be an era-defining summer.
The Leafs’ new GM will have to decide the fate of head coach and Dubas loyalist Sheldon Keefe, while Auston Matthews and William Nylander can sign contract extensions as of July 1.
Matthews and fellow star Mitch Marner have full no-movement clauses kick in the same day, while Nylander will have a 10-team list. Matthews and Nylander can both become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2024, while Marner’s deal runs until July 2025.